Åland’s first UNESCO honour: Gustaf Erikson’s shipping company archive included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World register

Autonomous island of Åland recieves its first UNESCO heritage honour as the Gustaf Erikson shipping archives were included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Register.

Inclusion in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register is a fantastic recognition of the value and importance of the Gustaf Erikson Archive, strengthening Åland’s cultural heritage as a seafaring nation.”

The autonomous island province of Åland has today received its first UNESCO heritage honour as the Gustaf Erikson’s shipping archives were included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Register, thus joining the same echelon of invaluable cultural heritage as England’s Magna Carta, the French Declaration of Human Rights, the Gutenberg Bible and Isaac Newton’s manuscripts.

Read more at the link below:


Call for papers, 9th IMHA Congress of Maritime History

Call for Papers

The Programme Committee appointed by the International Maritime History Association (IMHA) invites proposals for panels, papers and roundtables to be presented at IMHA’s 9th International Congress of Maritime History in Busan, Korea. The congress will be hosted by the IMA (Institute of International Maritime Affairs), affiliated with the Korea Maritime & Ocean University, and the Korean Association of Maritime History, on August 19 – 24, 2024, in cooperation with KASPS (Korean Association of Shipping and Ports Studies) and WCMCI (World Committee of Maritime Culture Institutes), the academic consortium of research institutes for maritime culture in East Asia.

The main theme is Oceans: Local Mobility, Global Connectivity, and the aim is to address multiple aspects of the relationship between humans and the oceans. Oceans were regarded by humans as barriers in ancient times, although, in modern times, they became routes for exploring, travelling and connecting peoples and worlds separated by spatial and cultural distance. 

As with previous IMHA congresses, the meeting in Busan adopts a broad conception of maritime history, treating it as an interdisciplinary field that covers all historical periods, all regions of the world and all aspects of human interactions with the seas. 

Papers will therefore be welcomed on a wide range of research areas, chronological periods and regions of the world. We welcome submissions by young, mid-career and senior scholars alike, whether working on individual projects or in larger research groups. The Programme Committee also welcomes proposals for full panels and roundtables. We are particularly keen on proposals addressing new, high-risk collective research that integrates different areas of expertise and colleagues from different academic cultures. 

The Congress wishes to create opportunities for researchers to share their work with colleagues in their own areas of interest and with researchers in adjoining fields, seeking to identify and define new avenues for individual and collective research in maritime history.

Participants are invited to submit a proposal in English of up to 500 words indicating the scope of their paper, panel or roundtable.  This should be accompanied by a biographical note of up to 150 words, plus contact details and institutional affiliation if needed.  For panels and roundtables, we require a short biographical note for each participant. It is expected, that proposers of papers, panels or roundtable are members of IMHA or becoming a member when submitting their proposal. 

Papers from the Congress will be considered for publication by the International Maritime History Association in the International Journal of Maritime History.

Venue Korea Maritime & Ocean University, Busan, Korea at Korea Maritime and Ocean University.

Deadline for Proposals December 1, 2023

Registration Fee $250 (Graduate students: $120)

Apply for Presentation

E-mail : 9th.imha2024@kmou.ac.kr

The Estonian Maritime Museum rewards theses in the field of maritime history

Alumni of higher education institutions whose thesis deals with Estonian maritime history are invited to apply for a financial prize of the Estonian Maritime Museum. They have to submit the thesis to the according competition by 5 February 2023.

‘There is still a lot left to research in the history of our country’s maritime affairs. We will have more expected thesis if we will motivate to do them and also will recognize the work done. That is exactly why we encourage the students of universities and institutions of professional higher education to research Estonian maritime history and to apply for the prize of our museum with their completed thesis,’ said Hele Kiimann, Head of Research at the Estonian Maritime Museum.

The winners of the prize are announced during the competition for the best theses in the field of maritime history, which was founded by the Estonian Maritime Museum. The prize fund is 2, 000 euros. The best theses are selected by an expert evaluation committee. The results are announced on the anniversary of the Estonian Maritime Museum – on 23 February of next year.

‘The initiative of the Maritime Museum values completed theses and motivates future thesis writers to research the topics of maritime history. From my own experience, I encourage to take part in the competition if the thesis is in any way linked to Estonian maritime history – for example, even a quite technical topic may also include an important part of the history of maritime affairs of Estonia,’ said Tauri Roosipuu, who was awarded the main prize in the previous competition.

This year, diploma´s, bachelor’s and master’s theses, which have been defended at an Estonian or foreign university within the last two years can be submitted to receive the award. The application together with the supervisor’s opinion must be sent to info@meremuuseum.ee by 5 February 2023. Additional information is available at the statute of the competition on the website of the Estonian Maritime Museum.

The Estonian Maritime Museum rewards theses in the field of maritime history for the third time already. During the first competition, special prizes were awarded to Artur Kaljurand for his thesis Engineers of the Estonian Navy 1919–1940 defended at the Estonian Military Academy and Maria Velikanova for her bachelor’s thesis Pärnu Laev public limited company and the development of tourism in the Republic of Estonia defended at Tallinn University. Last year, when the competition was held for the second time, the main prize was awarded to Tauri Roosipuu for his master’s thesis Comparison of previous investigations of MV Estonia in relation to new information defended at the Estonian Maritime Academy and the special prize was awarded to Tuuli Jõesaar for her master’s thesis Methods of making medieval footwear on the example of the Kadriorg cog find complex defended at the Viljandi Culture Academy.

Photos: link to download – https://photos.app.goo.gl/bykyX19kzvX4SGFu7  

  • Hele Kiimann, Head of Research of the Estonian Maritime Museum (Estonian Maritime Museum/ Kristi Sits);
  • Tauri Roosipuu, who was awarded the main prize in the competition of last year and Urmas Dresen, Head of the Estonian Maritime Museum (Estonian Maritime Museum/ Aron Urb);
  • Tuuli Jõesaar and Tauri Roosipuu, who were awarded in the competition of last year with Urmas Dresen, Head of the Estonian Maritime Museum and Hele Kiimann, Head of Research of the Estonian Maritime Museum (Estonian Maritime Museum/ Aron Urb).

Additional information: Katja Sepp – the head of Communications of the Estonian Maritime Museum, mob 530 74 951, email katja.sepp@meremuuseum.ee.

A message from IMHA president, Ingo Heidbrink

Dear Colleagues:

It’s already a while since the most successful International Congress of Maritime History in Porto and while we are all back to our regular jobs and are dealing with various day-to-day obligations, the new Executive Committee of IMHA has also started work.

The new Executive, which will serve only for a two-year period up to our next congress to be held in 2024 in Busan, South Korea, instead of the regular four year period, has decided on the following points as its top priorities:

  • Preparation of the 2024 Congress, which will be the first International Congress of Maritime History ever to be held in an Asian country. Right now, the Executive is developing together with the local organizers headed by June Kim the basic framework for the congress. As always, preparing an international congress is the work of many colleagues and while the local organizers and the Executive are prepared to carry out most of the work, there will be a need for volunteers from the membership to staff the program committee, to help with identifying the best keynote speakers, to spread the word about the congress and much more. Please be prepared considering serving in one of these functions. More details will be published on the IMHA webpage.

  • 2024 Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history. During its most recent meeting the Executive has decided to announce again a Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history to be awarded at the 2024 congress in Busan. The full announcement of the award including details on eligibility, the selection committee for the award, instructions for submission etc. will become available in Spring 2023. Nevertheless, please start spreading the word already now and most important, please inform your PhD students that there will be a new round of the Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history.

  • Realizing that we are in the 21st century and thus in the era of digital communications and social media, the Executive has decided to discontinue the traditional IMHA newsletter. Instead of publishing a quarterly newsletter, IMHA will use the news-section of the IMHA webpage as well as the IMHA Facebook page to continue with the dissemination of all kinds of news related to the association, news on maritime history conferences, CfPs, CfAs, news from national maritime history umbrella organizations etc. We are hoping that this new format of communication will allow for a timelier distribution of news.
    If there are any pieces of information you would like the Executive to consider for distribution via the IMHA webpage, please submit either to Constantin as Secretary of the Executive or directly to me.
    Please note, the quality of any newsletter or news-section on the web-page of an association like IMHA directly depends on the information available for distribution. If we don’t receive information from our members and partnering institutions, there is only little we can share. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are not sure if something might be a good fit for the news section of the IMHA webpage.

Finally, please allow me a brief remark on the future of IMHA: Having been member of IMHA association and its two predecessors, the International Maritime Economic History Association (IMEHA) and the International Congress of Maritime History (ICMH) for more than two decades, I think the main strength of IMHA is being a network and such a network is depending on all members of the network. Way too often our area of research is understood as somewhat exotic or even marginal at many of our home institutions and colleagues at the office next door to yours will often have no idea at all about your research or about what are cutting-edge research topics in maritime history. While we might not be able to change this situation, we are able to build up an international network of colleagues (and often professional friends) that are sharing the same research interests and understand the needs of each other. Let us use this network to design new international research cooperation, to organize guest professorships and research stays, to bring together colleagues working on comparable subjects, and much more.

Doing so will require all members becoming active and in addition to convince our young colleagues that there is a benefit in joining an international association like IMHA. Even if some of our younger colleagues might be somewhat reluctant when they are hearing the term maritime history as they are wrongly associating the term with an outdated antiquarian approach to maritime history and old salts telling sea-stories, many of them are doing fascinating research that deals with various aspects of the interaction of humans and the ocean throughout all historical periods. Thus, let us not focus too much on the term of maritime history but on the subject itself regardless whatsoever term we are using for it. Ask those young colleagues to publish their research in the International Journal of Maritime History as our flagship project, ask them to apply for the next Frank Broeze Award if they are recent PhDs or are working on completing a PhD thesis, ask them to propose a paper for our upcoming congress in Busan, and finally offer to them the whole network of IMHA as a resource they can utilize. Be prepared to guide them to a colleague that might reside and work in a different country or continent but might be the highly familiar with their research topic. In short, try to make them part of our network – not by simply asking them to join IMHA, but by explaining to them why this network might be of help to them and their research.

Allow me to conclude with a note that is not directly related to maritime history. Many of us grew up professionally at a time when we were thinking that major international conflicts and wars were to a certain degree just a thing of the past. The Cold War had come to an end at nearly every place of the globe and despite hundreds of smaller conflicts continuing or breaking out, we were convinced that international cooperation of scholars was more or less always possible, regardless of the nationality of the colleagues involved. In the recent past we needed to learn that this was at least to a certain degree a naïve take on the world around us.

What does this mean for us as a community of international maritime historians, or you might say scholars or intellectuals? Shall we give up continuing all cooperation with certain colleagues just because they are working in certain countries, regardless if they are close to the respective regime or not? In my opinion the answer to this question is a clear No. Not all members of IMHA might agree with this and not necessarily even all members of the Executive Committee, so this is a strict personal opinion: Cooperation between scholars might not be able to change the world for the better in the immediate, but in the long run, working together in our quest to analyzing the past for understanding the today will help to create a better future for all and IMHA and our network might be a very minor part when it comes to achieving this goal, but a part that is equally important than all the other very minor parts. Maritime history is international by its very nature and let’s not forget this simple fact right now, but embrace it and bring it to live, even if only with the limited means available to us as a global network and umbrella organization of maritime historians.

Ingo Heidbrink


International Maritime History Association (IMHA)

In Memoriam: Dr David M. Williams

David Williams, who died at the age of 80 on 19 March 2021 following a severe stroke, was one of my oldest friends. Our friendship, like that between many other maritime historians, was first forged at conferences. We both participated in the St. John’s Newfoundland Maritime History Group conferences ‘Volumes not Values’ (197 ) and ‘Working Men Who Got Wet’ (197 ). I learned then that David was both an excellent scholar, and an extraordinarily warm and friendly person. Back in England, David was an obvious choice of speaker for the 1981 Charted and Uncharted Waters conference organised by Glyn Williams and myself at Queen Mary, University of London, where again he delivered an important paper. Indeed, looking at the list of David’s abundant publications since these early years, it is striking how many of these originated as conference presentations. It is, however, no surprise that he received many invitations. Not only could David be relied upon for a well-researched original piece (no ‘pot-boilers’ for him), but his rhetorical style of delivery, worthy of the stage, could be guaranteed to enliven proceedings. His fine strong voice may perhaps have owed something to welsh ancestry and Caernarvon up-bringing.

David’s student years at the University of Liverpool, where he was taught by Sheila Marriner and Francis Hyde, founders of the ‘Liverpool School of Maritime History’, stimulated an interest in the subject, although he always described himself as an economic historian. His 1963 MA on ‘The Function of the Merchant in Specific Liverpool Import Trades 1820-1850’ reflected the Liverpool focus on maritime business, but appointment as an assistant lecturer at the University of Leicester just a year later brought him into contact with the trade and shipping historian Ralph Davis, who influenced his subsequent research, encouraging a broader scope. In 2000, when David’s academic contribution was honoured by the IMEHA in Merchants and Mariners: Selected Maritime Writings of David M. Williams, compiler Lars Scholl identified these themes: ‘the economic (trades, deployment of the merchant fleet, and state regulation of shipping) and social (many aspects of the seaman’s condition)”.

More recently, David also investigated maritime tourism and, in a fruitful collaboration with the late John Armstrong, reconsidered the transition from sail to steam, challenging the conventional view that this was a drawn-out process. David’s expertise and judgement were also reflected in several skilful historiographical surveys.

Puzzlingly, despite his exceptional record of more than fifty scholarly publications, and the considerable esteem in which his scholarship was held by his peers, David evidently regretted that he had not undertaken research for a PhD in the early years of his career, and therefore lacked the title. In 2004, under the title ‘British Merchant Shipping and its Labour Force in an Era of Economic Expansion and Social change, 1790-1914’ he submitted a selection of his work for a doctorate by published work at the University of Leicester and unsurprisingly was awarded the degree.

David’s contribution to maritime history went well beyond his own research. A founding member of the Editorial Board of our predecessor organisation, the International Maritime Economic History Association, his stalwart service to the Journal included serving as Chair and a stint as Editor. The same exceptional organisational and administrative talents were put to use as the Secretary of the British Commission for Maritime History. It was David who in 1993 proposed an annual series of New Researchers in Maritime History conferences, which continues to prosper, and initiated prizes for undergraduate dissertations. Anyone who worked with David on these international and national organisations would become familiar with his gentle prompting and the “Can we have a quiet word?”, designed to ensure everything ran smoothly and amicably. There were indeed several occasions when, after a message from David encouraging me to attend a particular seminar because he feared a low turn-out, on arrival I found a packed room filled, no doubt, with those he had similarly persuaded.

All this activity and hard work went on against a background of family responsibilities, inspiring teaching at the University of Leicester and service as External Examiner. Yet, although it took its toll, seemingly David took everything in his stride, with undimmed enthusiasm and generosity with his time.

David burnished his world-wide friendships and there will be many like me who never went to an event without hoping he would be there, ready to share his great fund of stories, latest terrible jokes and, as an avid collector of historical postcards, news of recent acquisitions. A learned man, with learning lightly borne, he was a sharp commentator on the world and its ways. As maritime historians, we owe a great debt to David Williams for his role in laying the foundations of our discipline as a collaborative international endeavour. On a personal level, there will also be many who lament the passing of a good friend.

Emeritus Professor Sarah Palmer, University of Greenwich

Dr David M. Williams (1940–2021)

David Malcolm Williams was an outstanding scholar, colleague, teacher and mentor who contributed enormously to the development of maritime history in the United Kingdom and internationally.

David spent his early years in Caernarvon, leaving as an eighteen-year old in 1958 to start a BA in Economics at the University of Liverpool. He joined an intake of 12 students, which included Peter Davies, later also an accomplished maritime historian, who became a lifetime friend and collaborator in national and international professional associations. The latter recalled David as coming from a ‘quite conventional and close-knit family’, yet also taking ‘full advantage’ of the extra-curricular opportunities offered to a new undergraduate in Liverpool.

David went up at a particularly auspicious time. The Department of Commerce and Economics included a group of gifted economic historians, led notably by the Chaddock Professor, Francis Hyde. Hyde amongst others formed what was known as the ‘Liverpool School of Maritime History’. Under their influence, David chose economic history options in his final year, graduating as the best student and winning the Gladstone Memorial Scholarship which allowed him to proceed to an MA in 1961. The topic he finally settled on for his dissertation was ‘The Function of the Merchant in Specific Liverpool Import Trades, 1820-1850’. Like all postgraduate economic historians, he was supervised by Hyde himself.

In 1963, after an unexpected vacancy, David was appointed Tutor in Economic History at Liverpool, a role in which he first displayed his talent for teaching. It also set him on his future path. The following year, he applied successfully for an assistant lecturership in Economic History at Leicester, joining Professor Ralph Davis in October 1964 as the nucleus of what would become one of the leading departments of Economic and Social History in the country. For the rest of his career, David was an immensely versatile teacher, a memorable and entertaining lecturer, the saviour of lost undergraduate causes, and an unfailingly helpful colleague and mentor. He was unflappable. Whether in Department meetings or as an external examiner, his judgement were trusted and reliable. He always got on with what he was asked to do.

Beyond the University, David’s growing international reputation as an original and innovative maritime historian led to his deepening involvement in scholarly networks and professional bodies at home and abroad, beginning notably with the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project and the associated Newfoundland seminar during the 1970s. He served as Secretary to the British Commission for Maritime History (1989–1998); as President of the International Maritime Economic History Association (2001-2004); and successively as chair of the editorial board (1990–95), editor (1995–98) and editorial board member (1999–2001) of the International Journal of Maritime History.

Additionally, he was a review editor and editorial board member of the Journal of Transport History and an adviser to the Centres for Maritime Historical Studies at Exeter and Port and Maritime History at Liverpool. David excelled in all these capacities because of his human qualities, his scholarly standing and his considerable administrative skills. He actively promoted his discipline, created opportunities for new researchers, and acquired the most formidable network of contacts and friends.

As a scholar, David exemplified a new approach to maritime history which placed the subject in its broader economic and social settings, thus widening its scope and increasing its relevance. In the introduction to his PhD, awarded by the University in 2003, he described himself as ‘an economic historian specialising in the field of maritime history’. His key influences were Hyde, Davis and the subject’s other ‘founders and promoters’, and his training as an economic historian was evident in the analytical rigour of his work and his systematic use of statistical sources. His interests were wide-ranging. He made important and innovative contributions to the histories of merchants and shipping in the Atlantic commodity trades, the social history of seamen, the beginnings of state regulation of conditions at sea, the origins and development of pleasure cruising, and the early history of steam navigation, much of his work in the last two areas with his long-time collaborator, John Armstrong. Another distinguished colleague, Skip Fischer of Memorial University in Canada, who generously acknowledged his own intellectual debt to David, described his work on bulk passenger trades in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (‘bulk passengers’ including slaves, emigrants, convicts, indentured servants and contract labour) as ‘undeniably seminal’. Fischer also wrote on the occasion of David’s sixtieth birthday: ‘David’s place in maritime history far transcends his individual publications, for his vision of what this discipline ought to be has had a particularly significant impact on the way in which most of us think about what we do’. David’s preferred medium was the essay. He published some 50, either as book chapters or in scholarly journals, alongside five edited books and sundry other pieces. Two collections of essays were published as books. The first, Merchants and Mariners: Selected Maritime Writings of David M. Williams (2000), in which Fischer’s appraisal appeared, included a personal tribute by Peter Davies. The second, The Impact of Technological Change: The Early Steamship in Britain, co-written with John Armstrong, was published in 2011. One further collection, under the title ‘British Merchant Shipping and its Labour Force in an Era of Economic Expansion and Social Change, 1790–1914’, with a valuable introduction by David, was successfully submitted for the award of his Leicester doctorate in 2003.

The first of the collected volumes was presented to David as a token of appreciation and esteem at the Third International Maritime History Congress in Esbjerg, Denmark, in August 2000. David’s retirement as a senior lecturer in the School of History at Leicester in 2005 was marked by a similar gathering of friends and colleagues for a symposium and evening celebration, with both Davies and Fischer in attendance. The affection and regard for David on this occasion was palpable. To all who encountered him, whatever their background, age or circumstances, he was unfailingly humane, tolerant, kind and good humoured. He had a vast repertoire of stories and anecdotes, which enlivened his teaching and entertained his colleagues. His lectures to students and scholars were performances which might conclude with spontaneous applause. He was an indefatigable collector of postcards, travelling regularly to fairs in the Netherlands. His was a keen eye for a bargain, including the comforts of the members room at the Royal Academy which, for a modest subscription, he used as a base for working visits to London.

For all his many qualities, David was a deeply self-effacing person who avoided pretension, disliked the limelight and saw things for what they were. He died on 19 March leaving his wife Maureen, two children, Tristan and Penny, and three grandchildren, Benedict, Josephine and Carenza. He will be remembered with a smile and great affection.

Dr Bernard Attard

Director of Education (History)

School of History, Politics and International Relations University of Leicester